Only one thing could have been more distressing for the bereaved families of soldiers killed in WW1 than the loss of a loved one – the fact that the body was never found.
So many war memorials list the names of servicemen with no known grave. But in 2000 one Luton family learned that their grandfather/great-grandfather's remains had been found by an amateur archaeologist excavating in a previously unploughed field in Belgium in 1999 – 85 years after he fell.
Private Harry Wilkinson enlisted with the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers at Bury. He died on November 10, 1914, when forced to withdraw after capturing a German-held farmhouse during the 1st Battle of Ypres. The archaeologist found his skeleton and several personal items, including his identity tag with his service number 8850.
Several years after his death at the age of 29, his wife and the daughter he never knew moved to live with relatives in Hastings Street, Luton.
The next generations of his family found out about the discovery from an article in the Daily Mail in January 2000. The Luton News then took up the story of them being invited to Belgium in October 2001 for a funeral with full military honours that was also attended by the Duke of Kent, president of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, at the Prowse Point Military Cemetery only a mile from where Harry died.
At least one proud family was able to complete the story of a brave loved one.
(Based on a story by Luton News reporter, now Deputy Editor, Geoff Cox)